Student Well-Being

Defining After-School and More

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — March 15, 2011 3 min read
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What is after-school? How do organizations build professionalism in their after-school workforces? Those are among the big questions that the National AfterSchool Association attempts to answer in a new draft platform.

The 21-page draft, which is updated annually, addresses a wide range of topics, including what after-school “is” and what it is not. NAA is accepting public comment on the document now, which the organization’s board of directors will likely approve next month.

NAA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul G. Young is heading up the drafting process. The new document represents a compilation of many views on after-school and comes at a time when such definition is needed. After-school “means a lot of things to a lot of people,” Young told me in a phone interview. “After-school, first of all, has grown up a lot. It’s no longer just babysitting.”

According to the draft document, after-school represents “programs which provide an array of safe, supervised, and structured activities for children and youth (grades K-12) that are intentionally designed to encourage learning and social development outside of the typical school day,” NAA says.

What after-school is not: “While providing a safe environment for unsupervised children and youth is certainly a worthy goal per se, programs that are unstructured, permit irregular participation, and/or do not measure the quality and impact of their services do not meet the definition of afterschool,” the platform states.

The statement also addresses extended learning time. NAA writes that it supports federal efforts to expand on the traditional school day and year, but that such efforts can raise concerns about the diversity and value of after-school programs and community collaboration, among other things.

NAA recommends that any expansion of extended learning be accompanied by policies on local flexibility, community involvement, and “complementary learning strategies” that build on, but don’t replicate, what happens during the traditional school day.

On the professionalism front, the NAA platform makes a range of recommendations, including:

  • Development of a thorough examination of program needs when hiring new staff.
  • Implementation of an in-depth orientation process for all new employees.
  • Development of job descriptions that are aligned with the mission and goals of the program and reflect the responsibilities of the job and the skills needed to perform the job well.
  • The creation of monitoring, observation, and communication systems that provide feedback leading toward increased job performance and effectiveness.
  • Utilization of an evaluation process that is clearly defined and includes ongoing informal and formal opportunities for reflection.

NAA’s Young also wrote about professionalism and giving “your best performance” on his blog yesterday.

“After-school professionals must willingly and enthusiastically speak in public settings and accept responsibility for leading young people. We must lead our profession. We must step up and become comfortable in the limelight. Positioning ourselves to perform more visibly and in a positive manner will lead to powerful outcomes!” Young wrote.

Meanwhile, also on the professionalism front, the association is conducting a survey to determine what those in the after-school field earn.

The 25-question survey can be found here. The association says the survey “is designed to collect information and data which can be used by our members to compare compensation levels and trends locally, regionally, and nationally.”

And, NAA is still soliciting feedback on the draft platform. To comment on it, e-mail Young at For a full list of the committee work on the platform, click here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.